I. The Rich Man’s Error
Our lesson comes from Mark 10.
The same account is also found in Matthew 19.
In the Matthew version, a person described as a Rich Young Man approaches Jesus.
Perhaps not pridefully.
A steady look in his eyes.
Chest puffed out.
His fancy, new, “rich people” robe crisply tucked into his diamond studded, limited edition leather belt.
The people recognized him.
He was a local success story.
The kind of guy with a large following on social media.
With a YouTube Channel that had thousands of subscribers.
Who had a car strategically parked on the corner with his smiling mug plastered on the side, “Ask me about Low Real Estate rates.”
He noticed everyone looking in his direction.
And flashed a grin.
But the man had business to do.
And, as was often the case when he did business, he got straight to the point:
He asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.17)
Build an orphanage?
Donate a month’s salary to the homeless?
Build an expansion onto the temple?
(I’m ahead of you. I drew up some plans on a napkin yesterday.)
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. You know the commandments. ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.’” (v.18-20)
The man looked at Jesus.
Brushed off his shoulder.
The man replied, “Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a child.”
Is there anything else?
Like university level stuff?
The trigonometry of holiness?
Let me know.
I can do it.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. He said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v.21)
I picture him with his notepad:
SELL? Sure. Check. I can get a good return on my money.
GIVE? As in…take a hit?
Leave my stuff behind?
Who will take of my business?
What will become of my net worth?
I’ve done a lot, Jesus.
Most things aren’t hard for me to do.
I can’t do that.
He looked sad and went away grieving, because he had great wealth. (v.23)
Let’s pause the account right there and start dissecting the story.
Particularly, look back at verse 21. It’s key to understanding what’s going on here.
It says, “Jesus looked at the man and loved him.”
Did you see that?
This is important.
Jesus wasn’t trying to make the rich guy look like a fool.
Jesus wasn’t trying to win one for the poor people.
Jesus wasn’t trying to win a comment section political debate.
He was loving him.
It was because he loved the man that he gave him such an impossible task to do to earn eternal life.
Because the young man believed a lie.
A lie that could keep him forever out of eternal life.
The Law is Something I CAN Do for Eternal Life
That’s the whole point of his initial question to Jesus. He asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v.17)
He viewed eternal life as a To Do List.
Maybe you do too.
In fact, I have a ToDoList App on my phone.
When I check off a task, it disappears.
Today I made a list of things to do to earn eternal life as Jesus said.
Don’t kill anyone.
Don’t sleep with the next-door neighbor’s wife.
Don’t steal an apple from Food Lion.
Don’t punch a guy in the parking lot of Food Lion and steal his apple.
Never tell a lie in a courtroom.
Go to bed when mom and dad tell you – most of the time.
I did everything.
Look – the app even celebrates by shooting off confetti.
But how does Jesus respond?
“Go. Sell everything. Give it to the poor. And follow me.”
You want to DO eternal life?
Sell your stuff.
Not just the stuff you don’t want.
ALL your stuff.
The comfy couch.
The shiny shoes.
The Playstation 5.
Put it on Facebook Marketplace.
You can even use your phone to take some photos of it.
Before you sell your phone.
Before you give it away, do us a favor, and send us a screen shot of the total amount in your bank account.
Then, send me another screen shot when that bank account is empty.
Cause you gave it all away.
And you are now homeless.
Nothing but a Bible.
Can’t do it?
Then, you can’t have eternal life.
Which is the point.
Because for a sinner, like you, me or that rich young man,
Eternal life isn’t something you do.
The Law is Something I CAN’T do for Eternal Life
II. The Disciple’s Assumption
Which is why the disciples started to panic.
Jesus, wait, are you telling me that guy can’t get in?
He’s done a lot of things.
His name is on billboards and stuff.
If he can’t do enough to enter eternal life.
Then, I doubt I can!
Jesus saw their stress.
And decided to help.
He pointed at a camel tied up outside a nearby house.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (v.24-25)
The disciples looked at the camel.
It was seven or eight feet tall.
Four or five feet wide.
Over a thousand pounds.
Do you know why it was tied up outside?
Because it wouldn’t fit through the front door!
Let alone the millimeter sized eye of a needle.
It’s impossible then!
Impossible for camel to go through the needle.
Impossible for the rich man to do eternal life.
And impossible for us to do eternal life?
Who then can be saved? (v.26)
Jesus looked at them.
For people, it is impossible, but not for God, because all things are possible for God.” (v.28)
Again, Jesus exposes another LIE. This time it was one that the disciples believed.
The Law is Something HUMANS are able to Do
That’s a terrible lie to believe.
Because these human hands are weak.
Have you ever done a Farmer’s Carry?
That’s where you take a dumbbell (try a 15 pounder) and you hold it in your hands while you walk.
At first, it’s not terribly hard.
But as you continue to hold the dumbbell, do you know what happens?
Your wrists start to burn.
Your shoulders start to shake.
Your palms start to sweat.
You drop it.
4 and a half minutes.
If human hands can’t even hold up a 15-pound dumbbell, how do you think we will hold up God’s holy law?
If we try and try and try and try and try because we think that it’s up to these human hands to earn eternal life…
We get tired.
We get downcast.
We get depressed just like Jesus’ disciples.
But Jesus didn’t let them stay depressed for long.
Because while Eternal Life isn’t something that HUMANS do;
The Law is Something only GOD Does
And he’s really good at it!
It’s kinda like a six-foot tall rollercoaster tycoon who puts up a sign that says, “You must be four and half feet tall to ride.”
He always qualifies.
Because “over four and a half feet tall” is who he is.
God is HOLY.
When the Law says, “Be holy.”
That’s not hard for him to do.
He is LOVING.
So when the Law says, “Be loving.”
He already is.
God has no problem doing good.
Because he is good.
III. The Opening Lie
Which reminds me…
We missed a lie.
Before Jesus exposes the disciple’s lie…
Before Jesus exposes the young man’s lie…
Jesus exposes a lie in the way the young man addressed him.
The young man said, “Good teacher…”
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. (v.17-18)
Maybe that seems a bit harsh.
He was just trying to compliment you Jesus.
But Jesus speaks with a purpose.
He never actually denies being a good teacher.
He simply points out that the only one who is good is God.
If Jesus is good, then…he is God.
The lie young man believed in his address was that Jesus was just a human.
The truth is that Jesus was God.
The Law is something JESUS DID.
Because nothing is impossible with God.
And nothing is impossible with Jesus.
He did drive out a demon in the synagogue.
He did heal Peter’s mother-in-law from fever.
He did save a boy from a lifetime of seizures.
He did make his face to shine, his clothing to gleam, and heavenly saints to appear.
Nothing is impossible with Jesus.
He did honor his mom and dad.
He did not kill.
He did keep himself pure.
He did not steal.
He did not tell lies.
He did not cover.
Nothing is impossible with Jesus.
He did take your disobedience on himself.
He did give his obedience to you.
He did die in your place.
He did die for your sins.
He did rise triumphantly on day three.
He did declare you righteousness.
He did win you forgiveness.
He did win for you your eternal life.
In fact, do you remember Jesus’ challenge to the rich young man?
Sell everything and give to the poor.
That’s what Jesus did.
He gave up all he owned –
His throne, his eternal riches, the golden streets of him.
Even his life.
And he gave to the poor.
Friends, that’s what Jesus wants you to do.
Not all your things.
Not all your stuff.
But give up the notion that you need to do The Law to win eternal life.
Give up the stress.
Give up the guilt.
Give up the shame.
Because he has Authority over the Law,
He did what you haven’t been able to do.
He did what you aren’t able to do.
And he will do what you’ll never be able to do.
He did eternal life.